The Philadelphia Eagles, one year removed from their first ever Super Bowl title, have been doing a lousy job of defending their status as champions.
A record of 4-4 halfway through the season, with three of their four losses coming in excruciatingly painful fashion, have the faithful pulling their hair out and wondering if 2017 was simply a mirage that never really happened.
With the team opening up the 2nd half of its season against the Dallas Cowboys, a team that has been mired in mediocrity not only this season but basically since the turn of the century, this matchup seemed like the perfect tonic for whatever has been ailing the Birds. And the oddsmakers must have felt the same way, as the Eagles were seven point favorites going in.
But when Philadelphia went on offense to start the game and promptly went three and out, I couldn’t help but think of Han Solo in those classic Star Wars movies looking over at Chewbacca and stating, “I’ve got a BAD feeling about this”.
That bad feeling continued for the first thirty minutes as the Eagles went into halftime down 13-3. This team’s ineptitude at the beginning of games is puzzling, as they have now scored a total of 21 points during the 1st quarter all season, with 14 of those points coming in one game against the lowly New York Giants.
The Birds did manage to crawl out of their hole to start the 3rd quarter and eventually tied the game at 13-13. But on the two occasions that they clawed their way back into a tie, Dallas’s offense, which was held in check for most of the first half, would drive down the field without much resistance to retake the lead.
Down 27-20, the Birds reached the Dallas 30 yard line at the two-minute warning of the 4th quarter. But on 3rd & 2, a swing pass to Corey Clement was sniffed out for a 5-yard loss, and the following play, a pass to tight end Zach Ertz, fell just one yard short of the first down.
And while the Eagles did get the ball back with 38 seconds left, it was too little, too late. That’s the kind of season it’s been my friends.
This team, instead of resembling a Super Bowl champion, looks very much like the 7-9 team of two years ago. That was Doug Pederson’s first year as head coach, and that team also had the habit of losing close games that they could have won had one or two plays gone the other way.
Sitting at 4-5, the Eagles now find themselves heading to New Orleans to face the Saints, who just happen to be the top team in the NFC, a spot that the Birds held for most of last season.
Add to that the fact that the New Orleans Superdome is not an easy place to play, and the Saints feature one of the best current coach/quarterback combinations in Sean Payton & Drew Brees (second only to Tom Brady & Bill Belichick in my opinion), and one can see why the Eagles started off as nine-point underdogs.
The good news (if there is any) is that the Birds should be able to score on this defense. The bad news is, can they actually stop the Saints offense?
Both starting cornerbacks for the Eagles (Ronald Darby & Jalen Mills) are out, with Darby out for the remainder of the season. 2nd year man Sidney Jones will return this week, and will have to earn his paycheck as the starting outside corner for the first time since his college days against a dangerous Saints offense. Opposite him will be his fellow 2017 draft pick Rasul Douglas, who allowed eight catches last week in his first starting gig.
For some reason, I think that the Eagles will play with a lot of pride, and actually keep it close. The question is, is this team good enough to win?
Birds lose this game, 28-24. And let’s hope the Redskins & Cowboys do as well. Otherwise, we may be throwing the 2018 Eagles season out with the trash on Monday morning.
Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all games on Sunday and in EST unless noted otherwise):
Texans at Redskins 1:00 PM CBS
Vikings at Bears 8:20 PM NBC
Chiefs at Rams 8:15 PM ESPN (Mon.)